The tiny town of Vopnafjörður lies tucked in a beautiful fjord 126km north of Egilsstaðir. Home to around 700 people, a small tangle of streets is dominated by the harbour, with a hulking fish-freezing plant that’s the town’s main employer. There’s been a settlement at Vopnafjörður since the 9th Century, and there’s plenty of local nature and history to see if you scratch below the surface.
Stay: Hotel Tangi or Sireksstaðir
There are a few smaller guesthouse options in Vopnafjorður if that’s your taste, but the main hotel in town is Hotel Tangi. It has seventeen rooms, free Wi-Fi, a bar and restaurant, and couldn’t be more centrally located. A nearby farm, Sireksstaðir, is a countryside option, with two detached, fully-equipped cabin-cottages and a guesthouse.
Walk: Lava Field Trail
Above the town is a hill with an interesting marked hike through an old lava field. You’ll see wedges of grey stone jutting up from the ground at dramatic angles, and bulging rock formations with tufts of yellow grass: look closely, and you’ll probably identify some suspiciously troll-like faces hidden in the lava.
This old-fashioned swimming pool is a bit of a celebrity. Located on the banks of salmon-rich Selár river, you can hear the roaring water as you do a couple of laps, soak in the hot pot, or relax on the sun deck. It’s a bit like a smart and well-kept Seljavallalaug if it hadn’t been allowed to crumble and deteriorate, and had its changing rooms soiled by weird pooping tourists who can’t wait for a toilet.
This large, proud, red-painted house stands on the harbour of Vopnafjörður, and is one of the town’s main buildings. It contains a local history museum, an information centre, a shop selling local handicrafts, and the town’s main café, serving a stellar seafood pizza. The winter opening hours are sporadic, so check in advance and plan ahead. A ship statue and a bust of local writer Gunnar Gunnarsson stands nearby.
Hike: Miðhólmi & Skiparhólmi
This unconventional hike involves driving out towards the town lighthouse, then walking down to the sea wall. Constructed of large boulders, the wall joins to the two small islands of Miðhólmi and Skiparhólmi. If you feel confident doing some advanced boulder-hopping, you can make your way out to the islands for a view of the mountains and the town.
This museum of Iceland’s past documents the type of croft-farming, turf-house living that inspired the Halldór Laxness classic ‘Independent People.’ There’s been a farm there since 1532, and the museum vividly illustrates the changing living standards over the centuries, with three well-preserved kitchens from different eras. It’s open June-September.
Drive: Hellisheiði Eystri
Although it’s absolutely unsafe and completely closed in the winter, the steepest mountain track in Iceland is a spectacular drive, should you be there during summer. Driving from Vopnafjorður, you’ll pass the Gljúfursáfoss waterfall before crawling through some high and mountainous scree slopes with views out to sea, then cruising past the Heraðssandur black beach to Egilsstaðir.